By Kathy McSherry
I own a home in Serra Mesa that I purchased in 1980 for $37,000. And frankly, after my wife of 22 years passed, and being 65 years of age, I never thought I would leave. That is until a miracle happened two years ago and my now bride-to-be came into my life. My fiancé lives in Temecula, and after our upcoming nuptials, I will be moving into her home as we have chosen to live together there.
We will then rent my home in Serra Mesa. I was wondering what I need to be aware of in order to prepare my home for any tenants that may decide to rent from me. Codes and requirements may have changed since my original purchase and I would like to know what specifically I should look for, and/or what steps should I take in preparation?
First, allow me to congratulate you and your new bride. I’ve often questioned what is more difficult; finding a new home, or a new partner? Clearly you have managed both!
Your question regarding your existing home and preparing for renters is so significant. The first item that comes to mind is carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Many of the older homes are still missing these safety mechanisms. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. It can be very toxic to humans and any oxygen-breathing organism.
In addition, 70 percent of all fire deaths are from smoke inhalation and not burns. It can take just one or two breaths of smoky air to render someone unconscious.
A safety tip that will cost you nothing, is that if you are over 62, the Burn Institute of San Diego will come to your home and install smoke detectors for free. That’s right. No cost to you. It’s called The Senior Fire Safety and Smoke Alarm Program, and the telephone number is 858-541-2277.
Studies have shown that the chances of someone over 65 dying in a fire increase twofold as compared to their younger counterparts. And, if you are over 75, your chances of dying in a fire are quadrupled. It would be so wise to take advantage of this free and valuable program.
Secondly, I would suggest you hire a licensed home inspector. This will help you identify and fix any critical issues or maintenance problems before your tenant moves in. Not only could this save you from answering maintenance phone calls on a holiday or in the middle of the night, or in an emergency situation, it could help protect against any legal issues. Having a home inspection both before a tenant moves in, and after a tenant moves out, would also provide for third party documentation, should you need it.
Basic rental hygiene, and making your home look the most up to date and trendy will attract the most qualified tenants and get you the best bank for your rental.
Here are a few more tips for you to consider when preparing your home to rent:
- Rekey locks if necessary. If anyone besides yourself has had a key at some point, you might consider rekeying all locks and changing garage door remotes and mailbox keys.
- A fresh coat of paint. Check for any holes in walls that may need repairing and consider repainting. It’s amazing how fresh and alive a home can become with freshly painted walls.
- Change your air filters.
- Inspect and clean windows and sliding doors.
- Clean, repair or replace screens if needed.
- Attend to the landscaping of your home and spray for pests. Sprucing up your yard and enhancing curb appeal will also contribute to getting top dollar.
- Do you have fire extinguishers? Equip the kitchen and each floor of the home with one.
- Professionally clean carpets and/or replace if necessary.
- Make sure all emergency exits are free and clear of obstacles.
- Check into landlord insurance. In addition to your homeowner’s insurance you will want to have landlord property insurance which will give you added protection should something bad go down with your home.
- Consider whether you will manage it yourself or need to hire a property management company.
- Check with your CPA regarding the tax benefits associated with owning a rental.
Jim, as lovely as I know Serra Mesa to be, tenants expect to rent a home that is move-in ready. Taking steps to make your home feel like a real home to your future tenants goes a long way.
Best of luck Jim in your new ventures. How wonderful and exciting to have some new beginnings!
—Kathy McSherry is a veteran realtor in Mission Valley with Caldwell Banker West. Email your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.